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18 Employees Honored With President's Award

Co-workers, family members and friends turned out Nov. 14 to honor the latest recipients of the Cedars-Sinai President’s Award.


Bari Goldman, RD
Administrative Dietitian
Food and Nutrition Services

Over the past two decades, Bari has dedicated her career at Cedars-Sinai to increasing patient satisfaction through quality food service. She has maintained a perfect attendance record while taking on more responsibility with each promotion. In her current position, she oversees a large area that includes Labor and Delivery, Maternal Fetal Medicine, the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center, all cardiac and transplant units and the Saperstein Critical Care Tower. Bari monitors food safety and regulatory compliance, manages inventory of food and supplies, improves efficiency, trains and coaches her team, and makes sure the galleys in her area are ready for inspection at all times. As a member of several unit practice councils, she partners with nurses to develop ways to improve the patient experience. Bari brings compassion to everything she does, whether she’s focusing on patient care or the needs of her 60 team members.

Marelyn Resendiz
Team Lead
Imaging Scheduling Department, S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center

An alumni of Cedars-Sinai’s Youth Employment and Development (YED) program, Marelyn has worked in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center since she was a 16-year-old Fairfax High School student. She became a full-time employee in the department soon after graduating from high school. For the past 16 years, she has skillfully coordinated MRI scheduling. She was instrumental in the success of a quality improvement project called “Wheels In,” which has improved efficiency by ensuring MRI appointments start on time. Marelyn was recently promoted; at the end of October, she assumed a leadership role that involves overseeing scheduling for the entire Imaging Center. She was nominated for the President’s Award by manager Mariella Compton, who also mentored Marelyn when she was a YED student.

Deomarie Sy
Senior Histologist
Anatomic and Clinical Pathology

A highly effective multitasker with a strong commitment to patient care, Deo works as a technician in three areas of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology: electron microscopy, immunofluorescence and histology labs. He performs lab tests that help doctors diagnose kidney disease and monitor the condition of transplant patients. Deo excels in everything he does. He consistently produces a high volume of slides without incurring overtime. Deo contributesideas for process improvements while keeping a close eye on what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis. He’s the quintessential “utility player” who fills in wherever he’s needed and is always willing to take on extra assignments. He is so supportive of his co-workers that he has changed his own vacation plans to allow others to take time off.

Maria (Tess) Valencia
Controlled Substances Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy Services

A member of Pharmacy Services for 33 years, Tess ensures the security and safety of controlled substances and makes sure supplies are maintained so patients receive the medications they need in a timely manner. She has overseen implementation of many changes in equipment and processes over the years, training staff and making sure Cedars-Sinai is always in compliance with controlled substance regulations. Her top priority is quality patient care and safety. With this is mind, she has resolved workflow issues in ways that enable pharmacy technicians to better support pharmacists so they can focus on advanced activities. While managing the distribution of controlled substances to units throughout the medical center on a daily basis, Tess is always ready to respond quickly when she receives a “stat” order from a unit where a patient has an immediate need for pain relief.


Sushil (Bob) Alagala, ARRT, CRT
Chief Radiation Therapist
Radiation Oncology

A leader in delivering high-volume, high-complexity radiation treatments, Bob collaborates with radiation oncologists, physicists, dosimetrists, nurses, aides and administrative staff to deliver the highest quality care. He helps radiation therapists learn highly specialized techniques as technology advances. Bob manages the training and the day-to-day clinical operations for the radiation therapist team and the implementation of new technology and treatment techniques for radiation oncology patients. This includes stereotactic radiosurgery for patients with multiple brain lesions, surface-tracking technology for patient positioning and high-dose-rate brachytherapy. A warm-hearted professional who inspires the best in others, Bob brings his first-rate problem-solving skills to issues ranging from scheduling difficulties to treatment challenges. He mentors employees and has achieved excellent results enhancing workflow procedures to improve the treatment planning process. He also works closely with the chief physicist to improve patient services and expedite treatments.

Mary Alvarado
Lead Patient Service Representative III
Smidt Heart Institute

Mary is highly respected by both administrative and clinical staff for her outstanding contributions as leader of the team of patient service representatives in the Smidt Heart Institute. In addition to supervising her team, she assists two physicians and steps in as needed to support 17 other doctors with tasks such as scheduling surgeries and managing referrals. As a role model for others, Mary sets a high bar for customer service and has received numerous commendations from colleagues and patients. Mary led efforts to develop resource materials and job aids that improved operational efficiency and standardized practices. She has been instrumental in developing electronic systems that improve processes for scheduling surgeries, obtaining test results and confirming appointments. With her positive, optimistic approach and willingness to help wherever needed, she boosts morale and brings out the best in others.

Gelline Anne Ibarrola
Academic Program Coordinator
Division of Academic Pediatrics

After joining Cedar-Sinai as a management assistant II in pediatrics in 2016, Gelline quickly took on responsibilities that went beyond her job description.She became the “go-to” person in her department as she streamlined processes and assisted the associate director, six Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) physicians, the department chair and others. She was so effective that she earned a promotion to her current role as academic program coordinator in May. She guides residents and fellows through the onboarding process, manages call schedules and rotation orientations for medical students at Cedars-Sinai and does whatever she can to support the success of all those who receive medical training in pediatrics.

Alejandra (Alex) Murillo
Patient Service Representative II
Spine Center

Alex manages the scheduling of procedures and appointments for two very busy orthopaedic surgeons and makes sure high-volume Spine Center clinics run smoothly. She has received multiple commendations for her excellent teamwork and customer service. She takes an active role in performance improvement projects related to hand hygiene and spine surgery outcomes, and facilitates effective communication between patients and their healthcare team. A master’s degree student in healthcare systems engineering at Loyola Marymount University, Alex is working on her thesis project to increase patients’ engagement in their own healthcare by encouraging greater use of My CS-Link™ to access information and communicate with physicians.


Carmen Chavez, MSN, RNC-OB
Assistant Nurse Manager
Labor and Delivery/MFCU

After joining Labor and Delivery as a new nursing graduate a decade ago, Carmen worked her way up to a leadership role that enables her to empower other nurses to be agents of positive change. She has received multiple commendations for her outstanding efforts to ensure that her team has a high level of engagement and job satisfaction while providing the best quality care to patients. She works closely with nurses on projects they develop as part of the promotion process and encourages them to use what they learn at the bedside to identify opportunities for improvement. Carmen was part of the team that developed the curriculum Cedars-Sinai uses to provide childbirth education for parents.

Efigenia (Bebs) Climaco, RN, MSN, PCCN, WCC
Clinical Nurse IV
Critical Care Services

A nurse on 5 North for nearly 15 years, Bebs has been a consistent role model for professionalism, teamwork, compassion and leadership dedicated to providing the best possible nursing care for cardiac patients. She has been instrumental in many performance improvement initiatives. She’s a champion in prevention of central line-associated bloodstream infections and uses her expertise as a certified wound care specialist to train nurses, patients and family members in prevention of pressure injuries. Bebs leads daily huddles that focus on improving the patient experience and supports projects designed to improve patient satisfaction. She trains and mentors new nurses and helps others prepare for promotions.

Aurora Flores
Clinical Partner
8 Southeast

As a clinical partner on the night shift, Aurora helps keep her unit organized and running efficiently. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and anticipates the needs of all those who depend on her for support and care. She is always ready to assist in ways that increase patient safety and satisfaction. For example, she is quick to respond to bed alarms and stays with fall-risk patients until help arrives. She keeps nurses informed of changes in their patients’ condition to ensure rapid response. Aurora has received numerous commendations for her compassion, professionalism and dedication to quality care. Her goal is to make a difference in patients’ lives, and she does this by bringing extraordinary sensitivity, kindness and skill to her work. She treats every patient as if they were family.

Heidi High, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Director
Patient Placement

Dedicated to improving quality and efficiency, Heidi collaborates with many different departments across Cedars-Sinai as she tackles the logistical challenges involved in finding beds for patients. She maintains a constant focus on reducing waiting time for patients and keeping them safe, and thinks creatively to find solutions to improve patient flow during the busiest times. With a background as a critical care nurse, Heidi brings valuable clinical expertise to her current leadership role. Among her many achievements is improving care for patients in the stroke unit. She worked with the neurophysiology team to reduce waiting time for patients who need to be closely monitored to prevent seizures while they are going through adjustments in medication.

Henjie Penalosa
Nursing Communication Technician (NCT)
4 Southwest

Part of the Cedars-Sinai family for nearly two decades, Henjie goes beyond his job description on a daily basis to support the 4 Southwest team and ensure quick responses to patients’ needs. He collaborates with the charge nurse and staff to help patients progress toward discharge. He has been recognized for providing quality service and paying close attention to patient safety that has prevented medication and patient identification errors. He is often the first to respond when a patient calls for assistance. If he can’t do what is needed himself, he takes action to get help and keeps patients informed about how their request is being fulfilled. He demonstrates exceptional compassion for patients and their families while helping to improve workflow in the unit.


Marie Fuerst, RN, OCN
Associate Director
Tower Hematology Oncology

An oncology nurse for nearly five decades, Marie always has the best interests of patients in mind as she oversees operations, clinical care and the infusion center at Tower Hematology Oncology (THO). She is a hands-on leader who makes frequent rounds to let her team know she is always available to support them. In FY 2018, she and her team of 150 employees took care of more than 10,000 patients and earned a 96.8 patient satisfaction rating. She accomplished this while rebuilding the THO research program and managing the daunting two-year process of moving the second-floor clinic into a new third-floor space. She is currently overseeing expansion of the infusion center. Marie serves on the Patient Experience Committee and helps implement improvements such as an electronic tool that enables patient coordinators to expedite scheduling of appointments for new cancer patients. Despite the many demands of her leadership role, she often stops by the infusion center to visit with patients and make sure they have everything they need.

Adriana Hernandez
Administrative Call Lead/Patient Service Representative II
Practice Care Transformation, Primary Care/Cedars-Sinai Medical Care Foundation

With her exceptional leadership skills, Adriana has become an integral part of the practice transformation process in the fast-paced Internal Medicine Department. She was recently promoted to her current role as administrative call lead. She oversees 21 patient service representatives who answer an average of 700 to 1,000 calls a day for 42 providers. Adriana has helped to reduce the call abandonment rate from 25 percent to the goal of less than 8 percent. She has also improved employee engagement by an impressive 9 percent. She skillfully handles calls from patients who have concerns, reassuring them with her calm voice and determination to resolve the problem efficiently and effectively. Adriana has helped develop standard procedures for her team as part of the Practice Care Transformation process. She takes innovative steps such as giving pop quizzes during morning and evening huddles to motivate and train employees to provide the highest quality customer service.


Rachel Baine
Strategic Planning and Business Development

Rachel plays a vital role in key decisions regarding Cedars-Sinai’s systemwide growth and development. Executives depend on her to provide information and detailed analysis of markets, demographics, community health needs and other factors that influence strategic decisions. Her research and recommendations have made valuable contributions to projects such as the purchase of Marina Del Rey Hospital and plans for expansion in the San Fernando Valley. Rachel’s many strengths include presenting highly complex financial data in a format that makes it easier to use in decision-making. Her role includes planning for recruitment of physicians as well as expansion of facilities and affiliations that enable Cedars-Sinai to better serve the community.

Nicholas Pasqua
Senior Application Specialist
Enterprise Information Services

After joining Cedars-Sinai as a Quality Assurance and Testing Associate in 2015, Nicholas quickly promoted through the ranks of Enterprise Information Services. In his current role as senior application specialist on the Ambulatory Team, he configures Cedars-Sinai’s clinical software, CS-Link™, for outpatient and specialty clinics. Nicholas has made significant improvements to the Phoenix module of CS-Link used by the Comprehensive Transplant Center. He worked closely with transplant clinicians to create a standardized form that captures discrete data on organ rejection. The tool Nicholas developed was so successful that Epic made it their standard for all hospitals. He also helped lead a project to significantly enhance care for non-binary and transgender patients. Nicholas uses insightful, thorough, technically sound analysis as well as creativity to find new approaches to solving complex problems. He’s a member of Trendsetters, a network of highly motivated Cedars-Sinai employees who promote personal and professional growth and the health system’s goal of strengthening staff engagement.

Gena Smith-Woods, RN, BSN
Patient Relations Representative
Patient Relations/Community Relations and Development

Over the past 18 years, Gena has worked in many different roles at Cedars-Sinai—including charge nurse on 5 Northwest and liver transplant coordinator. As part of the nursing float pool, she has cared for patients throughout the medical center. In her current position as a patient relations representative, she is dedicated to improving the patient experience in the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute (SOCCI). She serves as a resource for patients in challenging times and collaborates closely with the multidisciplinary care team to ensure that their needs are met. Among the tasks she assists with are care coordination in the infusion area, second opinion navigation and helping newly diagnosed cancer patients feel cared for. Whether she’s assisting patients or colleagues, she demonstrates an exceptional level of compassion for others. She has received numerous commendations from patients, family members and staff. Gena also assists with a variety of projects that improve SOCCI operations.